Thursday, March 14, 2013

Not Just Birds ...

... used the feeders.

During the day we had agoutis ...

... and golden tagu lizards, who thought they owned the place.

In the evening we were treated to a bat show. Nectar eating bats made good use of the hummingbird feeders.

(There are three bats in this image)

(That's its tongue in the feeder!)

And at night we had snakes patrolling the canopy, like this tree boa.

Although I don't think it used the feeders. But no doubt it preyed upon the creatures that did.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Christmas Ornaments

In a previous post I noted that I had visited Trinidad and Tobago. Patty and I left on December 22nd and returned on December 31st. We were on Trinidad form the 22nd to the 28th, transferring that day to Tobago. After three days on Tobago we returned to Trinidad to return home.

While on Trinidad we stayed at the Asa Wright Nature Center and Lodge, which is nestled in the Northern Range rain forest. We had signed up for a tour and were met at the airport by the Center staff and taken to the lodge to relax and enjoy the grounds.

The lodge has a veranda that overlooks the rain forest valley. More importantly, it overlooks a number of bird feeders which attract a bewildering number of colorful birds. Having never been birding in the tropics before it really was overwhelming.

And since we were there at Christmastime, and the birds were so colorful, and in trees, I saw it as a large Christmas tree with the birds as the ornaments.

So here are some of the ornaments. Look at them, noting the differences between sexes in the same species. And then imagine you're seeing all of them at the same time, flitting about, trying to make sense of it all. And that you woke up at 3:00 am to make your flight. and that with one exception, you've never seen any of these birds before.

Without the staff at the lodge, pointing out the different birds, it would have been impossible to make sense of it all.

Female Silver-beaked Tanager

Male Silver-beaked Tanager

Male Green Honeycreeper

Female Green Honeycreeper

Juvenile Green Honeycreeper

Male Purple Honeycreeper

Female Purple Honey Creeper

Juvenile Purple Honeycreeper

Crested Oropendola


Grey-fronted Dove

Golden-headed Manakin
(Manakins are the "Moon Walking" Birds)

White-bearded Manakin

White-necked Jacobin

Tufted Coquette
(The 2nd smallest Hummingbird on Earth)

White-chested Emerald

White-chested Emerald
(Note the apparent color difference base on how the light hits the feathers)

Cooper-rumped Hummingbird

Green Hermit

Great Kiskadee

Blue-grey Tanager

Green-backed Trogon

Tropical Mockingbird
(Even the familiar is different)

Male Violaceous Euphonia

Female Violaceous Euphonia

Female White-lined Tanager

Male White-lined Tanager

Turquoise Tanager

Trinidad Motmot

Female Barred Antshrike

Male Barred Antshrike

Spectacled Thrush

Northern Waterthrush
(The one bird I had seen before this trip)

Not everything was close, but they were still in view of the veranda.

Orange-winged Parrot
(These were very noisy, and would fly in very close but always land on the other side of the tree!)

Channel Billed Toucans
(These birds never came close)


This is not a complete list of what we saw at Asa Wright, as I wasn't able to shoot them all! On the trip overall I saw 186 species, 146 of which were life birds.

And what a civilized way to go about it. The veranda at Asa Wright had a bar, comfy chairs, a staff calling out any new arrivals, coffee in the morning, tea and pastries at three everyday, and the complimentary rum punch at seven each evening.

If they could just something about that humidity!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bird in Hand

A couple of years ago I went to see northern saw-whet owls being banded. I went twice again this November. It is still just as cool.

First we went back to the site I visited in central Pennsylvania two years ago, run under the auspices of the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, and we were not disappointed.

The owls are weighed and measured, with running commentary by the bander, explaining what is going on and why.

The owls, for the most part, are quite docile. Except for the occasional snapping of their beak, they remain calm in the bander's hand.

After the science is done, it's time for portraits. And "adoptions". Alas, you don't get to keep the bird.

You don't even get to hold it. The bander holds it for your adoption portrait, while you hold the band number that identifies "your" bird (and sometimes more than one person adopts the same owl - what a scam!). At this banding site the weighing and measuring happens indoors. Previously the adopter was allowed to hold the bird, but after one got away and flew around in the building in a panic that practice was ended. So now only the banders handle the birds. Once outside to release the birds you can hold it on your arm, as the owl reorients itself to the dark of night. Some sit on one's arm only briefly, others for five or more minutes. And then they're gone into the night.

The second site was a nature preserve outside of Philadelphia, Rushton Farm, which we visited six days later. At the Ned Smith site, the property is such that the visitors are not allowed to walk out to the nets, the terrain is just to rocky to have people walking around in the dark. The farm is much easier to get around, with easy to walk trails, and we were able to see the process from capture to release.

How embarrassing it must be to get caught and then have all these people watching. But again the birds were very calm.

We were able to watch, but only the trained banders could handle the owls in the nets. Once untangled the owls are put in bags for transport to the banding station.

The banding station was in an open air structure, so we were, under supervision, allowed to hold the owls for release. The protocol was the same, hold the bird for five minutes in the dark to allow it's vision to adapt, and then place the bird on your arm and wait for it to fly away.

The owls are quite tiny, and it somewhat magical to hold them, however briefly. This small wild animal, so calm and trusting. I wonder what it thinks of the whole experience. What memories does it have of these strange giants who poke and prod it and then send it on its way?